“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.”
- Alfred Lord Tennyson
"Charge of the Light Brigade”
“Unhappy the land where heroes are needed” – Brecht
In 1917 the 4th Australian light horse brigade helped Egyptian and British troops drive Ottoman rule from Palestine. After that campaign Australian light horse took part in the massacre and the burning of the village of Surafend*. In his Wednesday (22 Feb 2017) press conference with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed brotherhood with Australians referring to the Beersheba campaign. Australians were part of a British force attempting to colonise Palestine. Soon after the defeat of the Turks, British Lord Balfour signed a declaration granting a Zionist state in Palestine.
In 1946 Israeli terrorist militia, the Irgun, bombed the King David hotel in the centre of Jerusalem (Al Quds) killing 91 people and injuring 45. The hotel was the headquarters of British administrative and military rule over Palestine. After the bombing the Irgun and another terrorist group the Haganah drove Palestinians from their land in what became the Catastrophe (Al Nakba). The British left, deserting Arab towns and villages to the brutality of Israeli militia. Hence the Israeli massacre of villagers at Deir Yassin, a small town near Jerusalem. The attack on Deir Yassin took place after the United Nations proposed under UN Resolution 181 that Palestine be divided into Arab and Jewish states. These attacks were repeated across Palestine forcing villagers to flee for their lives.
My friend *****’s family fled from their town, Al Jamasin, where they grew Jaffa oranges for generations. They had lived in harmony with Christian and Jew for over 100 years. Making their escape they slept under olive trees and then in caves. Finally they made their way to Nablus where the UN provided old tents for them to live in. Life was hard especially for ****’s mum who had lost his twin brother at birth. Such hardships were borne by all the Palestinian refugees of 1948.
By 1967 Israel controlled lands from the Golan Heights in Syria across to the Suez Canal taking all the lands of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. This was the Zionist dream of a greater Israel holding sway over lands from the Levant in the north across Palestine to Jordan in the East, taking in Gaza and Beersheba from the Egyptians all the way across the Negev desert and down to Sharm El Sheikh.
Fifty years later Netanyahu arrives on Australian shores bringing with him the largest delegation of Israeli companies ever to come to Australia. Netanyahu told an Australian government cabinet meeting on 23 Feb 2017 that “trade with Australia is $1 billion dollars, it should be at least double or triple that.” He said that “this is one of the great paradoxes, we have to fight the barbarians on the technological turf, it is amazing … that has seldom happened before.” To which Malcolm Turnbull agreed, saying “we have to fight the Islamist terrorists…” Both parties signed air services agreements between Qantas and El Al plus some cyber security arrangements.
Australian troops and airforce are currently assisting Shia-led Iraqi military in the siege of Mosul in Iraq causing millions of inhabitants of the second largest Iraqi city to flee.
“The local Sunni population harbours long standing grievances against the Shiite dominated army. We see signs of that bitter divide when a soldier shouts ‘we are Shia’ and shoots over the head of a fleeing child.” (ABC –TV Four Corners Highway to Hell 20 Feb 2017).
A resident complains his house is being shot at (by Iraqi troops) even though there’s no IS around. Airstrikes from fighter-bombers are killing Iraqi civilians:
MATT BROWN: Some residents still fear coalition airstrikes.
RESIDENT: In my house I have daughter and my sister I, I sound big sound… (voice) a bomb.
MATT BROWN: Airstrike, an airstrike, a rocket.
RESIDENT: Airplane USA come to my house.”
To the assembled Australian press Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected a two-state solution in Palestine asking:
‘What kind of state will it be? A territory that will be used immediately for radical Islam? … we have to ensure that Israel has the over-riding security control of all the territories, all the territories’ yet claimed that Israel ‘had retreated from Gaza’.
Angel of death
Where lies Netanyahu’s claim to lead Jewish or Arab people, or any people in historic Palestine?
Benjamin Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv in 1949 but grew up and had most of his formative years in the U.S., the son of an American academic born in Poland and a mother born in Palestine in 1912, both secular zionists. His older brother, Jonathan, went to Cheltenham High School in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, and later briefly to Havard but preferred the life of a soldier. Giving up his academic studies Benjamin’s brother fought in the Israeli Defence Forces during the 1967 and 1973 wars where Israel captured and occupied parts of Syria, Gaza, and the Negev desert all the way to Sinai.
Jonathan Netanyahu participated in the assassination of Palestinians and the killing of many Syrian soldiers during the illegal capture of Arab lands. Finally Netanyahu, the elder, was promoted and, under orders from Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, given the job of leading commandos to Uganda to rescue hostages of a plane hijacking. Rabin ordered Israeli soldiers to kill members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine along with two German sympathizers who had taken control of a plane in Athens.
The hijackers demanded the release of 53 Palestinian prisoners, 40 of whom were held inside Israel. So, instead of releasing the prisoners, Rabin ordered Jonathan’s group, called the Sayeret Matkal force, to make the raid on the old terminal building of the Entebbe International Airport. The Israelis killed 45 Ugandan troops guarding the prisoners, accidentally killing several hostages. As a planned move to thwart efforts to prevent their escape, Israeli commandos destroyed many fighter planes of the Ugandan Air force on the tarmac. Estimates of the number of MiGs destroyed varying between 11 and 30.
The United Nations Security Council convened on 9 July 1976 to consider a complaint from the Chairman of the Organization of African Unity charging Israel with an “act of aggression.” The Israeli commandos had flown two military aircraft at low altitude, illegally crossing airspace of several north African countries before arrival at Entebbe. The assault took 30 minutes with Jonathan Netanyahu losing his life in the final minutes, the only Israeli soldier to die. In those 30 minutes they had killed more than 50 people including 3 hostages.
Predictably the boy from Pennsylvania, ‘Yonatan’ Netanyahu, was made a hero by both Israel and his brother Benjamin and the operation was renamed in his honour. But the killing had only just begun. Both his brothers, Iddo and Benjamin, joined the Sayeret Matkal. Both brothers took take refuge in the US between stints of killing and assassination, their quarry could not enjoy such luxury.
Michael Brull wr0te in the New Matilda this week about Benjamin Netanyahu’s relationship with Rabin, the man who had ordered the raid on Entebbe where his brother Jonathan was killed:
“Netanyahu led “two famous rallies” demonising Rabin. In one, “marchers carried a coffin and a noose”. He stood on a balcony at Zion square “with cries beneath him of ‘Rabin is a traitor,’ ‘Rabin is a murderer’ and placards were being waved of Rabin in an SS uniform and the crowd singing ‘Death to Rabin’”. This “dangerous and violent campaign” led to the assassination of Rabin by Yigal Amir. Netanyahu “gave the incitement his approval”. Likewise, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said that “Bibi is not guilty of Rabin’s murder, but he was and remains the chief inciter.” Rabin’s widow and son also blame Netanyahu for inciting the assassination.”
By getting rid of Rabin who had negotiated the Oslo agreements with the PLO, Netanyahu brought an end to the Peace Now movement in Israel. Later there were attempts by the International Solidarity Movement to curb some of Israel’s excesses but these attempts were largely in vain as the murder of Rachel Corrie in 2003 demonstrated. She was crushed by a Caterpillar bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier when Rachel tried to stop a house demolition in Gaza.
The Israeli Defence Force removed illegal Israeli settlements from Gaza but maintained exclusive military control over the Palestinian population by securing borders on land and sea with vastly superior military force. Israel has made repeated military incursions into Gaza over the past 12 years. No real withdrawal ever took place. Gaza is still under military occupation. The Israeli military has imposed tight economic blockades by land and sea. It is this economic blockade and the destruction of infrastructure by continuous Israeli bombardment that is making Gaza uninhabitable already. UN reports indicate that over 500,000 Palestinians have been displaced as a result of Israeli bombing in recent years. People cannot live without infrastructure and resources to build where Israeli rockets have destroyed homes, schools, roads and hospitals.
United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk wrote “Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not.” Falk was accused of being anti-semitic even though he identifies himself as being an American Jew.
It is 100 years since the charge of the Australian Light Brigade and the British Balfour declaration giving support for Zionist establishment of the state of Israel. There has been 50 years of brutal apartheid rule by Israel since the six day war in 1967. Palestinian refugees have been crowded into Gaza, not far from Beersheba, increasing its population by 13 times thus taking the polity to over 2 million.
Many Gazans are from other parts of Palestine, refugees in a colonised state.
In 2005, ‘Butcher of Beirut’ Israeli Prime Minister Sharon made a fake withdrawal from Gaza after the Oslo Accords and the Intifadas only to impose an even harsher economic blockade.
With protests against Netanyahu flaring up across the country and prominent Australians publishing a letter rejecting his visit, will the business ties Turnbull and Netanyahu hope to forge be thwarted? Not while while supine Australian governments and businesses continue to support Israel. A leader of one settler state, Israel, shaking hands with the leader of another, Australia; both governments rejecting any treaty, any peace or self-determination for Palestinian and aboriginal people. This must be opposed in any way possible. That the Boycotts Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaign strategy is sufficient to combat such brutal intransigence is uncertain.
I suspect not. What kind of men are the Netanyahu’s to give up academic pursuits in the US to wage wars against Palestinian refugees and poorly defended neighbouring countries. What kind of schooling did their families and mentors give these middle class men to make them into killing machines as with Jonathan in his pointless raid on Entebbe airport with such loss of life which surely could have been avoided. How do we respond to such men? Certainly not by shaking Netanyahu’s hand as did Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader, Bill Shorten this week.
Especially when Netanyahu stood in front of the assembled Australian and Israeli media to repudiate Australian government and Labor Party policy of a ‘two-state solution’ saying that Israel would never give up military control of Palestine. And Turnbull stood there flogging the dead horse of Australian policy of the last 60 years. As if Israel cares.